Cherie Gil: A Woman That Inspires
Jo Ann Bitagcol & Jude Bautista
Salon De Ning of the Manila Peninsula was the perfect setting for the press conference of FULL GALLOP, a play about the life of style doyenne Diana Vreeland as portrayed by the one and only Cherie Gil. The play opens on March 14, 2014 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza. March 14, 15, 21 performances will start at 7pm, March 16 & 23 (Sundays) will start 3pm.
FULL GALLOP by My Own Mann Productions is co-presented by Inquirer Lifestyle, Look Magazine, and The Peninsula Manila in cooperation with Antonio’s Tagaytay, Facial Care Center, The Love Garden, Businessworld, HerWord.com, WhenInManila.com, and Rappler.com.
Written by Mary Louise Wilson and Mark Hampton, FULL GALLOP focuses on the life of Diana Vreeland, who stood at the center of American style for five decades. As editor of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue magazines, and as a member of the International Cafe Society, Diana chronicled the extraordinary people and events of her time. FULL GALLOP is a portrait of this remarkable woman at a turning point in her life.
FULL GALLOP will have the special participation of Ms. Giselle Tongi. The creative team of FULL GALLOP is composed of Bart Guingona (Director), Joey Mendoza (Set Designer), John Batalla (Lighting Designer), Rajo Laurel (Costume Designer), and Ruben Nazareth (Hair and Make-up).
The creative team for the FULL GALLOP photoshoot are Joan Bitagcol (Photo), Sandy, Higgins, Mark Higgins, Michael Salientes (Styling), Mark and Sandy Higgins (art direction), and Fanny Serrano (Hair and Make-up).
I was there when Giselle Tongi was about to interview one of the most respected and admired actresses in the country. Both were very welcoming in letting me listen and shoot their interview. Since both write for website Rappler, they already have a rapport that other interviews may not have. Cherie Gil is the most articulate and intelligent interview I have been blessed to witness, as G Tongi was the one who drew the best responses from her.
Their friendship, the wine, the ambience of Salon De Ning allowed Cherie to be herself. G who also makes an appearance in the play, drew out Cherie’s most candid and vulnerable thoughts on work and her personal life. The woman that we see and hear in this interview is perhaps even more inspiring than the style icon she is portraying.
–What is it about your devotion to the stage that you keep coming back?
The process, G you know, the camaraderie right? The family that you end up creating after that, the discipline you have to obligate yourself with.
–What is it about Diana Vreeland that fascinates you?
Everything that she sees. How she sees things that is beyond fashion. Her visions of color and art and music and everything else that she sees around her. Her managing her life in her downfalls, how she coped. How she fell and stood up again. Kept going til the day she died. When she was at the last days of her life she looked at pictures maybe thousands of them that at the end she was almost going blind. That’s probably when she said time to go. She dictated her destiny.
–What is it about her that scares you?
Her strength, lets not get so abstract. Her dialogues. (laughs) The words she creates her sentences in such a thorough way. That you cannot miss out a word in the way she structures her sentences. You can normally say her thoughts. If you were to do it, you can summarize her sentence into 4-5 words. But she will go around until she gets to the point. And its very precise. That’s what scares me because grammatically her words don’t come correct. She makes her own. She has a penchant for, a vernacular, which is only hers. That’s what scares me because I don’t want to be unfaithful to that material. That’s what makes her so amazing.
—Bart (Guingona) brought this to you 10 years ago why did you feel on your 50th birthday it was time to do FULL GALLOP?
That was the closest thing to being reminded of what I could have done after master class. I’m sure there are many other plays that I can discover about women like this one woman plays as challenging. But FULL GALLOP was something I needed to revisit. I wanted to know why Bart really wanted ME to DO it. I wanted to understand why he could think I could even be capable. So part of it is an ego trip. (laughs)
Second it’s a challenge, I needed something to hold on to that would awaken again my discipline, awaken the drive to move forward in my love for acting. I needed another woman to inspire me, put words into me. Hopefully inspire other people, other women as well that’s about more like it. Maybe keep my brain intact for whatever reason, whatever purpose it may serve by continuously memorizing difficult work. Diana talks about it in the play; apparently it’s a disease of the present! Meaning, loss of memory because there are too many cross currents and things like that. You have to keep the brain working.
—How’s your collaboration with Bart? What is it about Bart that you trust so heavily in?
He’s an amazing actor. He did RED. He did other obscure plays. That’s what I like about him he’s always not scared to be brave and stepping beyond the boundaries of what is the norm. Not just commercial musicals these are one act plays HEDDA GABLER. He did ART with my brother and so he’s amazing. I want to know how he dabble the work in this kind of a medium, especially one woman plays how he approaches the process. He’s making me understand that to memorize in the first place is the wrong way to start.
I was quite skeptical because I was worried that there was nothing to work on unless I memorized. ‘Bart I can’t start rehearsing unless I memorize while I was in New York.’ ‘Hindi the words will come to you. You gotta know first once you’re seated in the character, the words will come.’ Then if you miss one word here and there that’s the time he’s more technical about it. You have to be loyal to the material yadada. So yeah, I wana be directed by an actor’s director.
—What experience in your personal life can you relate to most in FULL GALLOP?
Many, you want to go to the profound places? There are a lot of common things between Diana and I like tango! We like to TALK! (laughs) We don’t remember names. But she stayed on track when she discovered her identity. That she could do good and well in what she was asked to do. She never even thought she could be Editor In Chief.
I never thought I was gonna be an actor. Once she was plunged into it she loved it, gave it her best and never stopped doing it. In fact she never studied about it. It was just her innate quality in how she understood people and how she saw things. She gave what she knew to fashion and I through my art, through my acting. Also she gave up a lot of things family, children. But she never deviated from her being a devoted wife. At the same time she also never lost track of who and what she wanted to keep on doing.
—One woman play is all you very challenging material. Are you trying to prove something to yourself?
Yeah of course only to myself. I can still grow make or break according to my standards. And I’m scared shit. Did I say shit?
–Does Cherie Gil doubt herself?
G! Kungyari ka pa! That’s because she knows more about me. Duh! And all the viewers and readers of Rappler. I’m just human G! Maybe that’s why we want to do these things. You’re one of them people who just wana keep on going. I told you many times G. Rubbing shoulders with you keeps me inspired because you keep going. You wana keep n learning.
— This is about YOU
That means that’s also where I’m at I wana keep learning I wana keep growing. I wana keep testing myself I wana do thater work all the time, makes me feel alive. We talked about this. It obligates me to be disciplined.
–Fake it til you make it.
Diana says that I think I understand it. Only you can decide what is true and what is real. And what is believable. You dominate when you’re on stage. You have to dominate. You should never let anyone know how freaked out you are. That adrenaline rush is what gets you out there. There’s this exercise we know right? The magic pocket; I am the actor I am the deliverer. I am the one bringing out the story and I AM right. No one else knows what I’m doing. No one else knows my script.
And Maria said that. Dominate your audience in a most harsh way. I like these people e. Because I feel that I have the ability to make people believe my world even if it’s just for a moment of pretend. Fake it til you Make it.
–You’re always drawn to these kinds of women what about these empowered women that you’re really drawn to?
Maybe in fact I am probably it takes a lot of balls for a girl to say I need. Imagine the paradox of that I said it takes a lot of balls for a girl to say I need. I got separated 5 years. Maybe it’s also a personal journey. I’ve been alone, I’m not gonna cry. We do that on the side behind closed doors. Maybe I’m convincing myself there’s another way to find joy in being alone. These women struggled til the day they died…alone.
And so maybe I’m imbibing women who can teach me how to do that. I’m tired I’ll cry na. (laughs) No self pity, no self pity but I’m still a girl. A lot of people have a misconception that a woman may not be vulnerable that’s why I have friends, good friends. I’m not gonna lie. I am using this part of my journey to be able to invite at least a little bit of that strength. Only with you I’m honest, you got that out of me G! (laughs)